Mortgage Availability Improves for Sixth Straight Month

Good news for homebuyers: It’s becoming easier to get a mortgage.Mortgage

Relaxed government regulations, new offerings from federal loan programs, and new jumbo-loan options helped raise the Mortgage Bankers Association’s monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index by an average 0.5 percent from March to April — the sixth straight month of increased access to home loans.

“Mortgage credit availability increased on net in April,” Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, said in a statement. “The increase was driven by new offerings of FHA’s 203K home improvement program, new VA offerings, and new jumbo products.  The increase was partially offset by some investors tightening underwriting criteria on conventional cash out offerings.”

The good news from the MBA follows recent announcements from the federal government of programs designed to improve access to home loans, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac‘s decision to back 3 percent down-payment loans, as well as the Federal Housing Administration’s move to reduce its mortgage insurance premiums.

Also, a recent survey of real estate professionals by the National Association of Realtors shows improved mortgage options for homebuyers, with lenders reportedly more willing to accept slightly lower FICO scores. In August 2013, most homebuyer FICO scores were 740 or higher, NAR said, but last month the majority of scores ranged from 620 to 740. Real estate professionals also reported an increase in the number of their clients obtaining a loan while making zero to 6 percent down payments.

Access to home loans has been steadily improving for three years, according to the MBA. According to the report, access to loan programs from government agencies such as the FHA, Veterans Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture improved 1.1 percent from March. Access to jumbo loans improved by 0.8 percent in April and access to conforming loans rose by 0.2 percent, while conventional loan access declined by 0.6 percent.

Jumbo loans — generally, those above $625,000 — are a key element of the high-priced Bay Area real estate scene, and improved access to these loans bodes well for homebuyers.

“We’re seeing lots of new investors coming into the jumbo market,” Dennis Kowalski, branch manager at Pacific Union joint venture Mortgage Services Professionals, said. “That’s a good sign for homebuyers.”

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Understated Beauty Defines Architect Barbara Chambers’ Mill Valley Home

Barbara Chambers is one of my favorite architects.  Her Larkspur home is featured in the new SFC&G Magazine. Congratulations Barbara!!

Ivory shades like White Dove and chalky Clunch predominate in architect Barbara Chambers’ project binders. This rigrously achromatic aesthetic extends from the residences she designs to her own understated wardrobe and even her elegant presence, which whispers rather than shouts. “Neutrality allows me to infuse my interiors with serenity and a sense of calm,” she explains. “I prefer to let artwork, accessories and, most importantly, people,  provide a space with its color.”

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Chambers’ work instead showcases a mastery of proportion. Her own home, the fourth she has designed over the past two decades for herself and her husband, achieves its impact through scale, symmetry and purity of form. In relative terms, the two-story, 2,500-square-foot Mill Valley house may be smaller than what she typically designs for clients, but it feels perceptibly grand and airy. One enters the home, for example, through a five-by-five-foot foyer that releases into a dramatic 20-by-46-foot great room. In that space, which contains the living, dining and kitchen areas, 10-foot ceilings and stately doors confer an aristocratic stature.

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“Guests are sometimes speechless when they come here for the first time,” says Chambers. “I think they’re surprised that expansiveness can feel this intimate.”

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The first floor living spaces are delineated not by walls—indeed, there are none separating them—but by furniture groupings, a strategy that gives the space a modern, loft-like feel. As is the case with most of her firm’s current project list (15 new residences and just as many renovations), Chambers was responsible for the interior design as well. A “less is more” approach underlies its spare sensibility. “I have no tolerance for clutter,” she says. “Life’s too short to be surrounded by things you don’t absolutely love.” Instead, fumed white oak floors and white linen drapes provide a pure canvas for furnishings and art.

The sitting area is centered around a limestone hearth and framed by a pair of customized George Smith sofas and day bed in mohair velvet. A coffee table by Jean Michel Frank for Hermès, and a Cedric Hartman floor lamp and side table complete the scene, adding modernist touches. The dining area, anchored by Victoria Hagan’s dramatic Parker table, flows into a kitchen space defined by a marble island. Throughout, Chambers’ symmetrical repetition adds even more perceived volume, particularly when three drum-shaped ceiling pendants, suspended on an axis with the fireplace, reflect into infinity in a tall mirror.

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Chambers also achieves a graceful symbiosis between the indoors and outdoors. “I sited the house so it’s oriented to the south. That exposure is magical in this part of the world,” she notes. “In the winter, the sun’s low position pushes warmth inside. And in the summer, its height bathes the furnishings in a golden cast.” Architectural elements enhance the connection as well: Window casements frame landscapes—like the orderly lineup of rosemary bushes outside her study—as well as any Lippi portrait, and the Dutch front door opens to frame beds of English boxwood and hydrangeas.

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Chambers often brings new clients here as the first stop on a tour of her firm’s locally built projects, and on several occasions they have said, “No need to go any further. This is exactly what I want.” Chambers notes: “It’s so wonderful when that happens. It not only validates my aesthetic, it validates how I live.”

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of San Francisco & Gardens with the headline: Simplicity and Grace.

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Golden State Real Estate Investors Optimistic About Price Growth

An overwhelming majority of California real estate investors believe that property prices will grow in the coming years, according to a recent survey, and they’re anticipating handsome returns.thumbs_up

In its 2015 Investor Survey, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) found that 75 percent of investors believe that real estate prices in their neighborhood will increase over the next five years, while 70 percent expect appreciation in one year. Investors project that their property prices will grow by 27 percent during the period of ownership, an average of 6.1 years in 2015. In both 2013 and 2014, investors said they would keep their homes for an average of about eight years.

And if recent home price gains are any indication, California real estate investors have just cause for the sunny outlook. According to CAR’s survey, the median sales price paid for an investment property increased from $292,000 in 2013 to $375,000 in 2015.

Overall, the number CAR real estate professionals who reported closing a transaction with an investor over the past 12 months declined from 39 percent in 2013 to 26 percent this year. Survey respondents said they had an average of 5.4 investor clients in 2015, essentially unchanged from last year but down from seven in 2013.

California investors still far prefer single-family homes, with 72 percent buying that type of property. Multifamily property purchases by investors grew from 14 percent in 2013 to 21 percent in 2015, a trend that CAR attributes to the depletion of distressed housing inventory on the market.

The survey found that two-thirds of investors financed the transaction in all cash, virtually identical to the previous two years. About half of investors funded the purchase with profits from a previous investment, while 42 percent tapped their personal savings.

Two-thirds of investors also plan to become landlords – with the average monthly rent pegged at $1,850 — while about one-quarter intend to flip the property. California investors tend to gravitate toward homes that are already in excellent shape, with 69 percent purchasing properties that needed no or minor improvements. Those that did have to renovate spent a median of $10,000, down from $15,000 last year.

Southern California is still the preferred locale for investors in the state, accounting for 46 percent of transactions in 2015. However, investor activity in Northern California is rising, up from 15 percent in 2014 to 24 percent this year.

Source: http://blog.pacificunion.com/car-2015-investor-survey/

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$23.889 million for S.F.’s biggest single-family sale of 2015

After more than two years on the market, 2724 Pacific in (where else?) Pacific Heights has finally sold for $23.889 million, making it the biggest sale in San Francisco in 2015, thus far. The 1894 mansion, designed by E.A. Herman, started off asking $30 million back in November 2012. After two years and no nibbles, the 13,500-square-foot home underwent a sizable price cut in January, down to $21.75 million.

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According to Curbed, that price drop reflected the market realities as well as the removal of one of the parcels of land that was originally included in the sale at the $30-million price point. The property was still being sold with two parcels (.36 acres), so it was still quite a large piece of land, by San Francisco standards. But Curbed believes that the third parcel may have come back into play in the final sale: “Property records show a total of three parcels accompanying the sale, so it’s possible that the buyer netted the entire package for a tidy sum well below the old $30-million sticker price.”

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Who is the lucky new owner of this seven-bedroom, seven-bath home with space to entertain up to 500? According to Curbed, the buyer has hidden behind an LLC. (The seller is former Pacific Stock Exchange chairman Doug Engmann.)

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Curbed also points out that 2724 Pacific may not hold the title of “Year’s Biggest Sale” for long. The site reports that the tenth-floor penthouse unit at 2006 Washington, also in Pacific Heights, has quietly gone into contract at a mind-boggling $30 million. If true, this would be the most expensive condo or co-op sale in San Francisco history, but we won’t know for sure until the sale is final. For the moment, 2724 Pacific is still the belle of the real estate ball.

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A secret, second market for high-end homes

An off-market deal in this Mission Bay building still netted the sellers 4% over asking: $1.25 million.

Off-market sales have always been a part of the San Francisco marketplace. Some sellers, especially on the higher end, simply prefer the privacy of a so-called “pocket listing” to the exposure of listing on the MLS. But recently, more and more sellers have been passing up the opportunity of marketing their properties to as many potential buyers as possible in favor of a more subdued marketing approach. In fact, according to Vanguard Properties, these off-market deals now make up over a quarter of all sales in San Francisco.

“Off-market sales are on the rise, and there are substantially more this year than in years past,” said Vanguard agent Michael Bellings. “It’s coming to the point where there is such a presence for ‘off-market’ deals that a second market is essentially being created.” Bellings says that most of these properties are selling at the highest end of the market, where sellers are more concerned with knowing who is touring the property (especially when personal items are still in the home) than getting the largest number of buyers through the door.

Bellings adds that just because the properties aren’t getting the full marketing muscle of the MLS, that doesn’t mean that buyers are getting a discounted deal. “Often times the asking price is more of a ‘buy it now’ price when listed off-market,” he explained. “So it’s more about finding a buyer who is willing to pay the desired price, which is typically market value or very close to it.”

For example, Bellings recently represented the buyer in the condo in the slideshow above in an off-market deal. The sellers of the Mission Bay two-bedroom, two-bath had difficult schedules, lived in the unit and had two cats, so they decided they would rather go the off-market route to limit the number of showings they would need to have. They asked $1.2 million for the nearly 1,400-square-foot unit, knowing that they could likely get more if they were willing to stage and move out. Bellings approached the listing agent, who is in his office, and his buyers toured the unit only twice. They offered 4% over the listing price ($1.25 million) and the deal was done, with both parties feeling satisfied that they had gotten a good deal without the aggravation of staging, multiple showings or a bidding war.

And, with San Francisco’s famously limited inventory, there are a lot more high-end buyers out there with money to spend but nothing to buy, as well as sellers who don’t see the point of painting, moving furniture out, staging and sometimes relocating while the house is listed. Bellings says that agents have begun accumulating a stable of buyers and then playing matchmaker with their more private sellers. “When you have a very motivated buyer and hyper-demand combined, you’ll be able to find buyers more easily for your pocket listings,” he said. “With qualified buyers with a lot of money, willing to pay more than anyone, but who don’t want a bidding war, the ‘off-market’ avenues flourish.”

Emily Landes is a writer and editor who is obsessed with all things real estate.

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Marin County: Q1 Results

Inventory expanded solidly in Pacific Union’s Marin County region during the first quarter of 2015, but the extra supply of homes sold quickly – a testament to the pent-up buyer demand throughout the region. Home prices continued to increase throughout the quarter, and virtually all properties that were priced fairly and in desirable neighborhoods received multiple offers. It was not uncommon to see buyers offer all cash and waive contingencies to close a deal quickly.

Mill Valley was a particularly hot market, but sales were strong in all price ranges across the region – particularly for high-end properties. The quarter also saw a significant number of private purchase agreements, reached without homes ever appearing on a local MLS and without competing bids. Such off-market deals can simplify the sales process, but they don’t guarantee the highest possible prices.

Looking Forward: Spring is typically a busy season for real estate, and with a robust regional economy and interest rates still hovering near record lows, the coming months should see exceptional levels of activity in Marin County. Sellers seem to realize that now is an optimal time to put their homes on the market, and buyers will be waiting.

Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the charts below includes single-family homes in these communities.

Median Sales Price

The median sales price represents the midpoint in the range of all prices paid. It indicates that half the prices paid were higher than this number, and half were lower. It is not the same measure as “average” sales price.

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Months’ Supply of Inventory

The months’ supply of inventory is a measure of how quickly the current supply of homes would be sold at the current sales rate, assuming no more homes came on the market. In general, an MSI below 4 is considered a seller’s market; between 4 and 6 is a balanced market; and above 6 is a buyer’s market.

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Average Days on the Market

Average days on the market is a measure that indicates the pace of sales activity. It tracks, on average, the number of days a listing is active until it reaches “pending” status, meaning all contingencies have been removed and both parties are just waiting to close.

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Percentage of Properties Under Contract

Percentage of properties under contract is a forward-looking indicator of sales activity. It tracks expected home sales before the paperwork is completed and the sale actually closes.

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Sales Price as a Percentage of Original Price

Measuring the sales price as a percentage of the final list price, which may include price reductions from the original list price, determines the success of a seller in receiving the hoped-for sales amount. It also indicates the level of sales activity in a region.

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A Closer Look at Marin County

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Christie’s @ HEDGE – San Francisco Exhibition of Post-War and Contemporary Art

SAN FRANCISCO | 16-22 APRIL 2015

Christie’s is pleased to partner with HEDGE to present an important exhibition in San Francisco of Post-War and Contemporary Art works which will be offered at auction this spring in New York. The exhibition will include works from the Collection of Ileana Sonnabend and the Estate of Nina Castelli Sundell as well as major works by artists such as Ruth Asawa, Richard Diebenkorn, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and Wayne Thiebaud.

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#ChristiesAtHedge

Source: http://www.christies.com/exhibitions/san-francisco-exhibition-of-post-war-and-contemporary-art-april-2015/?sc_lang=en#about-section

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Join Us Today! 70 Rancheria Road, in Kent Woodlands – Exclusively Offered at $6,300,000

JUST LISTED!!

70 Rancheria Road, in Kent Woodlands – Exclusively Offered at $6,300,000

Please join us today for the Broker’s Open: Thursday, April 9th from 11am-2:30pm

Catered Lunch by Stacy Scott

Bring and send your clients!

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Beautifully situated on a serene and private ± 1.16-acre mesa and located just 15 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge, 70 Rancheria Road is one of the most desirable properties in prestigious Kent Woodlands, offering resort like living, all day sun and breathtaking views of Mount Tamalpais. Substantially rebuilt and expanded in 1996, this well-planned ± 5,868-square-foot home includes five uniquely designed bedrooms and five full and two half baths, as well as a wonderful one bedroom and one bath detached guest cottage. With a cobblestone driveway entrance leading to the residence, the elegantly gated property offers utmost privacy and security, yet sits just minutes away from the highly-acclaimed Kentfield schools, upscale shops and restaurants, and a myriad of hiking and biking trails. Inside, the exquisite home boasts large scale public rooms, an open floor plan and exceptional indoor-outdoor connection, highlighted by a professional chef’s kitchen and family room, with the finest finishes and appointments throughout. The magnificent grounds and pool were created by award-winning landscape architect Scott Colombo.

For Additional Information and Photos, please visit:

www.70RancheriaRoad.com 

1. Kitchen DSC_5008 2. Dining Room DSC_4834 2. Entrance DSC_4956 2. Fam Room DSC_4996 2. Garden DSC_4440  2. Library DSC_4904 2. Liv Room DSC_4830 copy 2. Pool and Garden View DSC_5141 70 Rancheria_Aerial Mt. Tam Cottage DSC_4750

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Just Listed!! 87 Shady Lane in Ross – Exclusively Offered at $2,295,000

Please join us for the:

Broker’s Open: Thursday, March 26th from 11am-2pm

Catered Lunch, Hosted by Bart Welles of Mortgage Services Professionals.

Bring and send your clients!

Open House: Sunday, March 29th from 1-4pm

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Located on one of the most coveted streets in Ross, 87 Shady Lane offers one level living with three bedrooms and three baths, open floor plan, great indoor-outdoor connection, beautiful gardens and a pool.  The gated 2,198 square foot residence is perfectly sited on .2373 level acres (per tax record) and enjoys all day sun, convenient access to both Downtown Ross and San Anselmo, the award winning Ross School, the Branson School, Phoenix Lake and a myriad of hiking and biking trails.

For additional photos and information, please visit: www.87ShadyLane.com

 

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CHINA’S ELITE BUY BAY AREA PROPERTIES AT RECORD RATE

It’s one of the most lucrative matchmaking events on the planet where realtors from 26 countries meet some of the wealthiest people in China. An invitation-only real estate trade show, highlighting elite properties from around the world, was held last December in Shanghai.

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But American realtors have the upper hand. Overseas Chinese spent $22 billion buying homes in the U.S. from March 2013 to the same period in 2014. That was up a whopping 72 percent from the year before and California is their most popular market.

“Offers are coming in from Chinese nationals. They’re all cash. They can close in seven days,” Michael Repka, the CEO of DeLeon Realty in Palo Alto, said. 

“There’s no loan contingency, no inspection and no appraisal,” Michi Olson from Alain Pinel Realtorssaid. “We just had one in the East Bay with 53 offers and the property went for $200,000 over the asking price.” 

Olson said the one who bought the East Bay property was from China.

At these trade shows, potential buyers look at videos showcasing homes from the Bay Area. Some buy them sight unseen.

“So they watch these high-end videos that walk people through the property and they a sense both the neighborhood and the house and then they will just wire the money in,” Repka said.

Competition among realtors is stiff. DeLeon’s marketing strategy includes videos and a website in Chinese. They also bought a Mercedes van to take buyers to open houses and have a plane to show Chinese the splendor of the Bay Area. The plane has a lucky Chinese number on its identification markings — an eight, not one but two of them. Local realtors are doing just about everything to get a slice of the Chinese pie.

Realtors are even asking cities to change addresses of homes Chinese are interested in, with the number four. That’s because the number four means “death” in Chinese — a definite no sale.

Hillsborough realtor Stanley Lo, from The Green Banker, has represented Chinese buyers for some two decades. He sells luxury homes that can go for $7 million and include six bedrooms, two dining rooms, a pool and a two-story guest house. The seller is a Chinese who wants a bigger home. So who are his clients?

“It’s a combination of entrepreneurs, businessmen, developers and real estate tycoons,” Lo said. 

Many of the homes they buy remain vacant most of the year. They’re called “ghost houses.” We saw one example that is $9 million property bought by a Chinese family.

“They actually came and purchased the home, but their purpose was only to come here next summer,” Olson said. 

A burgeoning middle class is now looking to invest their money in a safe haven, away from China’s polluted air and political and economic uncertainties. Additionally, in China you never have home ownership.

“In China, it’s a 70-year lease, so there are uncertainties. Nobody knows what’s going to happen 70 years from now right?” said one realtor. 

That’s another good reason to buy American.

Source: http://abc7news.com/realestate/chinas-elite-buy-bay-area-properties-at-record-rate/506609/

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